Form vs. Function vs. Flawed

The old argument, form vs. function. Do you make it look good or work better. As a designer I am faced with this question everyday at my job. Yes it looks good, but does it communicate. Yes it communicates, but it looks like ass. In the middle somewhere is the perfect balance, it may slide more towards form, then sometimes function, but there is no perfect balance, it changes from job to job.

So being a designer you think I would know what works and what doesn’t, what balance between form and function is appropriate, and for the lion share of the time I do, but here are a couple of examples where my designer brain falls down and lands on it’s face.

Wallet: I first got this wallet years ago, it was actually an Umbra card holder, you can see it here. I loved this thing, it looked cool, it was made of metal and had a cool bungee cord that would close it shut after opening. This is where form overtook function. You see it holds cards beautifully, but money not so much unless you fold it up and stuff it in there. Then there is the problem with the number of cards it holds. It hold 12 cards but I have plastic for everything, and if you have a kid, your wallet becomes their wallet. So with my money and my extra cards I have to pick and choose what goes into the tiny little metal case. Whatever doesn’t fit goes into the other pocket, I feel like a pack mule sometimes, pockets bulging walking bow legged so my back doesn’t give out. My wife can’t believe all of the things that I have in my pockets, she just laughs at me, she’ll leave the house with a bank card, her iPhone and her good looks and she’s good to go. Me I go through my checklist load up and look like I’m wearing adult diapers, well used if you know what I mean. I might as well just get a murse (male purse) but that I can promise you, is never ever going to happen. And last but not least on the annoying wallet conundrum is the noise. As I walk the cards in the metal wallet will slide from one end to the other making a metal clink sound, and as I walk down my office hallways or down the supermarket isle I sound like a cowboy with his spurs a-jinglin’. I’m just waiting for one day when the girl at the checkout says “Well howdy partner, will that be cash, credit or are you tradin’ in your horse.” Form killed function in this instance and I need a grown up wallet…like, yesterday.

Digital Images: I am all about image quality, I did a magazine for over ten years and in that time I went from getting transparencies scanned on a drum scanner to having huge digital images magically appear on my desktop within minutes of the photo shoot.  As technology has gotten faster and more efficient I have become a resolution snob. Nothing under 300dpi for me thanks, at least for print anyway and I print nothing until I have colour corrected, balanced, tweaked and perfected. People always complain that nothing is real anymore and everything is photoshopped, well duh! Why live in an ugly world when we don’t have to, there is enough bad shit happening in the world, why make our make believe world ugly too, its called escapism, look it up. My wife and I own a Nikon D7000, it is a beautiful camera that takes pictures at 16.2 megapixels, it takes 1080p HD video and a bunch of other extras that I frankly have no idea what they mean, but I know they are super cool. Anyway with a camera like this you would think that all of my family photos would look like they come out of the pages of Vogue but alas there are two reasons this doesn’t happen. Number one, I don’t know how to use the damn thing (my brothers been helping me out explaining to me the SLR code) and two, I don’t always have this camera on me. It’s not like I can slide it into my pocket, and even if I could, my pockets are full of the shit I talked about in the first part of this blog. So what ends up happening is I take ninety percent of my personal photos with my 3 megapixel iPhone camera. While it is competent and will work in a pinch, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the Nikon. So I get the same looking shots with the tiny little lens and the two settings, flash-no flash or HDR-no HDR. How sad. I look through my iPhoto and I know I can do better, but function has won out and form has taken a back seat to bad pictures.

So you see, everyone has flawed systems, no matter how hard we try. But I feel this is what makes us human. I took my daughter out and taught her how to ride her bike, she failed and failed, getting more pissed off with me by the minute, but that last time when I let go of the back of the bike seat and she pedalled across the park on her own saying “Look at me Daddy!!!” made all of the failed attempts worth it. We live and we learn, we fall and we get back up, just learn from your mistakes and you’ll be fine. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to buy a new wallet and take some pictures of my family, or was it take some pictures of my wallet and buy a new family, whatever, I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually.


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